Friday, June 21, 2013

Hiking the northern part of Zion National Park, and sightseeing around the Highway 9 tunnel

We woke up for the final full day of our vacation in the parks on southern Utah, and had another good breakfast at Amber Inn B&B  – largely the same as the previous day, but today it was French toast instead of silver dollar pancakes.  Our host Nida had suggested previously that we could get cooler hiking weather if we went a bit north, up Kolob Canyon, because the elevation was higher, and we decided to take her up on this advice, at least for our morning and midday hiking.  We drove west on highway 9 to Virgin Utah, then turned north up Kolob Terrace Road; as we got up higher we had some nice views.

We chose the relatively easy hike to Northgate Peaks, through fields that are normally flush with wildflowers in June.  On this hike we paid the price for the low level of rain that was such a benefit for our hike up the Narrows – there were many fewer flowers than there might otherwise have been.  But we enjoyed seeing the Sego Lilies,

the Utah Daisies and this mysterious, delicate purple flower than even a ranger at the information desk at the visitors center could not identify

and other flowers pictured below

Yellow prickly pear flowers

as well as many lovely little butterflies with checkerboard wings like this one

We also hiked past some incredibly strong-smelling sage plants; I confess I was very highly tempted to break the rule against taking plant parts out of the park to get some of these.

At the end of our hike, we got a view of the Northgate Peaks, including North Guardian Angel (with the deep arch/cave), with the Zion Valley in the distance

Then we drove further up the Kolob Terrace Road to Lava Point, where we looked out at a jumble of volcanic rock below as well as seeing Zion Valley in the distance

We headed back to town to relax in our hotel room, and had a nice snack at the Springdale Fruit Company on the western outskirts of town, before driving eastward along highway 9. 

We had these nice looks at the Great Arch and Pine Creek Canyon before entering the west side of the tunnel.

Just to the east of the tunnel was the trailhead for the easy Canyon Overlook trail; by now it was late afternoon so the heat (over 100 degrees) was abating.  We hiked past a wavy slot between the rocks below

to get these nice views of Pine Creek Canyon, the switchbacks of road leading up to the west side of the tunnel, and the southern end of Zion Valley

Pine Creek Canyon from Canyon Overlook, with Highway 9 switchbacks to west end of tunnel

We drove back to our hotel, and headed out the Spotted Dog Café for a nice dinner, although once again, the local trout was too dry, even though it was encursted with pepitas which should have helped hold in the juices.  I might have assumed the the local trout is just different, had I not had it done so well at Cafe Diablo in Torrey.  I just have to assume that the problem was overcooking.

We got back to Amber Inn B&B just in time for another show of the datura flowers opening; this time, in addition to the usual rush of big black bumblebees to get to the nectar of the flowers as they opened, we got to watch a hummingbird moth do the same.  Nida was as excited as on the our night of arrival.

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